Question Sheet: Sahara Cemetery


Before reading:

  1. Where might people look for information about the beginning of


  2. What does an archaeologist do?

During reading:

  1. What kinds of artifacts did researchers find in the Sahara? 
  2. What period of time in Earth’s history does the Holocene epoch cover? 
  3. Why was the site of the ancient cemetery in Niger nicknamed Enigma? 
  4. Why is the archaeological site described in this article called a “jackpot

    of information”? 

  5. What did scientists learn from the enormous number of catfish bones found at

    the ancient settlement? 

  6. What kinds of information can scientists gather from human skeletons?

After reading:

  1. How does archeology differ from paleontology? In what ways are the two

    disciplines related? 

  2. When researchers have finished studying bones and other artifacts found at

    an archaeological site, who should keep the artifacts? Do you think the country

    where scientists made the discoveries has a right to keep the materials, or

    should foreign scientists be allowed to bring them to their own countries for

    display and further study? Why? 

  3. Why was the transition from hunting and gathering to raising crops and

    animals an important change in the history of our human ancestors? How did this shift lead to the development of civilizations? 

  4. How would you go about learning more about the Holocene epoch? Where would

    you look for information? What defines the beginning of this period in Earth’s

    history? See 

  5. What measures besides keeping the site secret could help preserve the

    ancient cemetery discovered in Niger? 

  6. Large parts of what is now the Sahara desert were once lush and green. What

    might have caused such a change in the environment in the last 10,000 years?


Why is Africa a good place to look for signs of early civilizations? To what parts of Africa (besides the desert in Niger) might an archeologist go to study human settlements during the Holocene epoch? See (Anthropology

Resources on the Internet).


  1. Imagine that archaeologists from the future have dug into a modern-day trash

    heap (or a sanitary landfill) near your town. What might they conclude about our

    civilization? Write a few entries for a diary kept by one of these

    archaeologists, describing and interpreting some of the discoveries. See 

  2. Visit a museum in your area that has displays of ancient human bones (or go

    to an online museum exhibit). Write a brief report about the displays. What do

    these exhibits tell you about past civilizations? Besides bones, what other

    artifacts do these displays include? See, for example, (Canadian Museum of Civilization), (British Museum),

    or (Odyssey Online).



How many countries surround the West African country of Niger? If you were to color the map shown above so that no two countries that share a border have the same color, what is the smallest number of colors that you would need?